In case you were too busy finishing off a box of Pop Tarts to watch a 95-pound 13-year-old medal in the X Games, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Yu Darvish turned in a ferocious performance, striking out 14 Diamondbacks for the second time in three months, as the Rangers handled Arizona easily in a 7-1 victory in Arlington. Look, Yu, we get it, you hate snakes. It makes sense. Snakes are scary. But a real professional doesn't let his fear lead him to perform inconsistently. So heed this advice: When playing teams that aren't the Diamondbacks, pretend you are pitching to snakes. Visualize the batter as a snake. Or if that's too difficult to imagine, because snakes don't have arms the way that major league players usually do, imagine the batter's head is somehow made out of snakes. Perhaps they have a snake head on a human body? Or snake hair like a gorgon. Or a snake for a tongue. Whatever works for you. Just stop forgetting to pretend like everyone is a scary snake.
Felix Hernandez threw seven innings of one-run ball, but his efforts were not enough as the Boston Red Sox rallied to beat Seattle 8-7, putting six across in a stunning ninth-inning comeback. "Don't feel bad for me," Hernandez said after yet another stellar start ended in a no-decision, "I now know why I was put on this earth. I am the one who suffers for mankind. And I can prove it." Hernandez then pulled out a bottle of water and stared at it while yelling, "pinot," until the gathered press eventually left when it became clear that nothing was going to happen.
Do Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner have more in common than an ironfisted reign over your weekend appointment television for several months a year? Take this quiz and decide for yourselves:
1. "The roster that we have today may change tomorrow. It is what it is for right now."
2. "[We] sort of went a little bit rat trap out there."
3. "We have an idea of how we're going to use him, but we don't have an idea of where he is in terms of how much we'll use him. There's a difference."
4. "I think the pleasure some people get from the mistake makes more entertainment."
5. "That issue has gone under the bridge, under the next bridge, over the next dam and is gone."
6. "And to make any presumptions like you all make, really, really upsets me. It really does. It's so unfair."
7. "He's definitely a liar. I hope that you caught that. And I hope that you caught that he — you don't think he seems like an ambitious person jockeying for a job?"
8. "That's what it was about for me. Let's get to the destruction. Let's get to the loss. … He's going into hell. This is the descent. Maybe he'll come out on the other side, or maybe he'll just take up residence there."
9. "Our goal is to work against things we have not seen that we will see in the near future."
10. "I thought, this is going to be interesting to see how this works, especially since I had been so influenced by the books Sex and the Single Girl and The Feminine Mystique."
11. "Honestly, I can't even tell what closure is to this audience."
While agonizing over the possibility of a second straight Alabama-LSU title game, I think I came up with the worst thing about their horrible dominance: as a neutral college football fan, you have to pick a favorite.
Well, let me qualify that. A person like me, who is incapable of watching a sporting event of any kind (including youth Frisbee) without vilifying one team and venerating the other, needs to pick a favorite. Believe me, that is a hateful, torturous task in this world of Tigers and Tide. Anyone with a semblance of love for the amateur unpredictability of college football probably despises these two programs. They are the evil empire, magnified by a power of two. While the rest of us stand by and watch, helpless, Les Miles and Nick Saban have created near-professional super-teams in a non-professional sport, slowly sucking the competitive life out of the game.
Last Saturday night, I lay half-asleep in a hotel room and watched Oregon play the Arkansas State Red Wolves in a football game that felt more like a hypnagogic fantasia. The Ducks were dressed up, as always, in Nike’s Alternate Elfin no. 6 color scheme, and they moved as if they were literally being chased by a pack of scarlet canids. They scored a touchdown, converted a two-point conversion, scored again, and then kept piling it on. They did not slow down until I glanced at my screen midway through the second quarter and it was 50-3 and the second-teamers were in, at which point I felt as if someone had slipped an Eli Roth film into my evening tea.
Football, as we know by now, is a brutal sport; close-up, man-to-man physicality, we like to think, is both the central element of the game and its most frightening aspect. This is what traditionally affords vicious block-and-tackle SEC squads like Alabama the edge over schools like Oregon, with its go-go West Coast, Gavin Rossdale–inspired offense. But I watched Alabama dismantle an inferior Michigan team on Saturday evening, and I watched Oregon vivisect Arkansas State afterward, and while I realize there is no true equivalence between the teams’ Week 1 opponents, here is what I can say: For the first time ever, Oregon scared me more.
When Michigan and Alabama kick off in Arlington tomorrow night, the man most responsible for bringing them there will be starting over. He’ll be 950 miles away, likely tucked in an office, waiting out the two hours before he begins again. Rich Rodriguez will be in Tucson, preparing to coach his first game at the University of Arizona. He’ll be far from Jerry Jones’s kingdom and the gem of college football’s first weekend, but without him, the Wolverines and Tide might be just as far away.
It’s a testament to what Nick Saban has done in Tuscaloosa that for those removed from Alabama’s football program, it’s hard to remember any of the mess that came before. The shine of those crystal footballs has a way of leaving Mike Shula in the dark. The truth is that it didn’t take Saban long to get his statue. It was less than six years ago that he was pried away from the Dolphins, and in that time, the success has made it easy to forget that the man who’s already a legend wasn’t even Alabama’s first call in the winter of 2006. That was Rich Rodriguez.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Max Scherzer pitched six scoreless innings and Miguel Cabrera blasted a two-run homer as the Tigers evened their best-of-five series with the Yankees at 1-1 in a 5-3 win. After the game, Detroit closer Jose Valverde guaranteed a win. "This series is not coming back to New York," he said. Frustratingly, it's impossible to tell from his quotes exactly which team he expects to win.